01 Feb I was dead for 6 minutes
I suppose I should preface my story with the fact that I wasn’t always a religious man. I mean I’m still not, but at least now I know there’s something more than just “us.” I don’t know about some ultimate plan or divine judgement, but I hate to break it to you atheists, there’s a whole other world waiting for you when you die.
Now, I wish I could tell you that I died with some kind of dignity or grace, however that would be a filthy lie. I’m what I like to refer to as a provider of life’s intimate services. Other people just call me a whore. Coping with my sexuality, coupled with some pretty intense daddy issues, left me a pretty broken kid who searched for attention wherever he could find it. Tinder, Grindr, fuck, even Craigslist. Wherever sad men with a little extra money were looking for company is where you could usually find me. 19 is a tough age to be a prostitute, but you can’t be picky. I was cute and the money was just good enough to keep me from sleeping in a cardboard box under some bridge. Anyway, one night, after some 50-somthin’ bachelor and I got into a pretty heated argument over wither or not I earned my usual $200, life went south. Things were shouted, objects were thrown, fists were exchanged, before I knew it I had a kitchen knife in my hip. I was a confused whore bleeding to death in a strangers living room.
Death is a cool enough dude. Mid 20’s, light brown hair, suit and tie type of guy. Pretty cute if were being honest. I can’t really tell you how I felt about dying. Everything happened pretty quick, and Death was in a hurry and I got the vibe he wasn’t much of a piddler. I just kind of accepted that I was dead, not much else to do.
Death walked me to the curb of the bachelor’s apartment and we hopped into a rather unimpressive looking bus, and started driving. The bus was filled with a couple of other people. Each of them less interesting than person behind them. I picked a seat right behind Death himself.
“So, where are we headed?” I asked as causally as a dead man can.
Death sighed and in a rather indifferent, if not annoyed, tone replied “The next place.”
“Cool… And what’s that?”
“Don’t know. Not really my job to know.”
I can’t really say the answer satisfied me, but whatever. Death obviously wasn’t going to tell me anything useful, so I just sat down and waited. We picked up a couple of other shlokes who did there best to keep to themselves. Each time we got to a new place Death would get out of the driver seat, leave the bus, and return with a new body. Mostly older people. I was easily the youngest person there.
Our last stop was a small neighborhood a few towns over from mine. The smell of smoke filled the bus. There was a house on fire and you could hear people yelling. Death stopped in front of the house, got out, and came back with two kids covered in ash. It was the first time I felt anything negative since I died. The older kid was a little boy about 11 years old. The other was a girl about 8. I had siblings that would be about their age before my dad kicked me out. It was the only thing I ever felt like I left behind when I decided to move on with my life. I couldn’t tell you what it was that made them sit next to me. Maybe it was because I was the next youngest? Maybe it’s because I was already at the front of the bus? I really couldn’t say. Once they took a seat though the little girl pulled at my shirt.
The boy was choking back tears. I really didn’t know what to say. It’s weird to think about the age you begin to comprehend what death is. I suppose everyone learns at different times in their life, for this family it was somewhere between 8 and 11.
“Didn’t she tell you? She stayed behind to take care of Daddy, but she told me to take you on a vacation. Would you like that?”
The little girl gave me a bit of a grin and nodded her head. The boy looked at me from over his sister. He looked at me long and he looked at me hard. I put my hand around him and smiled as reassuringly as I could. He just turned away and buried his face in his hands.
We rode that bus for hours. Death drove and drove, never batting an eye. Not many people said anything. Some talked amongst each other, discussing who they were when they were alive and how they died, but most didn’t utter a sound. The little boy stopped crying for a bit after his sister fell asleep. I tried talking to him for a while but he never said anything back. I kept trying however. Eventually, after probably 9 or 10 terribly bad jokes, the kid let out a giggle, and I felt happy for the first time since they got on the bus.
“My name is Tommy.”
“My name is Cal, it’s nice to meet you Tommy.”
The boy smiled.
“Say Tommy, who’s your friend here?” I said, gesturing to the little girl between us.
“She’s my sister, Sarah.”
“Well it’s very nice to meet the two of you.” I grinned. “You know you’re being really tough. You’re alot stronger than I was at your age.”
Tommy smiled and we talked for a little while longer. He too, eventually went to sleep. I stayed awake. I couldn’t sleep. The bus rode for hours and hours but I didn’t feel the least bit tired. Outside was desert for as far as the eye could see. We were long passed anything that could resemble a sign of civilization, and it remained that way until, in the distance ahead of us, a black figure appeared. As we got closer the figure could be recognized as a house.
The house was a single floor high and made of brick and plaster. It looked as if someone has just picked up a house and thrown it into the middle of nowhere. The house was completely out of place in the middle of the desert and, naturally, Death didn’t care in the least bit.
We pulled in front and Death stood up and took out a notepad from inside his jacket pocket. He looked at it and spoke out in his trademark monotone voice.
“First stop, Thomas Gables. Sarah Gables. Theodore Witchem. Up and off.”
The kids woke up to the sound of their names being called and looked around, confused. I pulled them in closer to me, concerned that my name wasn’t called and that I might have to lose the only things I care about in this new world. I looked around the bus and a man I can only assume was Theodore was up and fidgeting to the front of the bus. He was mumbling something incoherent. Death began tapping his foot and eventually walked to meet Theodore at the middle of the bus, grabbed him by his shirt, dragged him to the door and threw him out. Theodore panicked and began screaming that he couldn’t go inside. That this wasn’t happening. I could feel Sarah grip my arm and bury her head in my chest. She knew this wasn’t a vacation. She knew something was wrong.
Realizing Death wasn’t going to let him back on the bus Theodore took a last look at the house, mumbled something, and began walking in the direction the bus had come. Death satisfied he’d done his part looked back into the bus and scanned over the people until finally his gaze rested onto the kids next to me. Tommy took my hand and squeezed as hard as he could.
“It’s time to get off the bus.” said Death.
The children quivered, but continued to sit where they were. Death delicately reached to grab Tommy.
“Wait.” I stumbled. Getting up and putting myself between Death and the kids. “I’m going with them.”
Death’s eyebrows began to curl down. “But it’s not your stop.”
“I don’t care.”
“Fine.” sighed Death. “Do whatever tickles your fucking fancy. Just get them off my bus.” he said, waving off the kids.
I turned around and took a knee. “Well kiddo’s, this is our stop.” Sarah wrapped her arms around my neck and Tommy took my hand and I walked them off the bus. As soon as we stepped off, the bus took off, leaving us in a cloud of dust. I looked off in the direction that we came and Theodore was nowhere to be seen. Gazing at the house it had a certain level of familiarity to it. In a way it resembled the house I grew up in to a certain degree. The three of us walked up to the door and knocked.
I was expecting the worst. Demons and chains is all I’ve been waiting to see ever since I hopped onto the bus. So, imagine my surprise when the person that opens the door is easily the most handsome man I’ve ever seen. Late 20’s, messy dirty blonde hair, with a very casual look about him.
“Oh cool. I was wondering when the house would be restocked. My name is Erick, come on in!”
Erick explained that the house was similar to a giant waiting room. We wait there until someone came to pick them up. Everyone gets picked up eventually. He didn’t know when they would get picked up or what happens when you do, only that it happens.
The house was phenomenal. Everything you’d ever want was there. The kitchen was always stalked with food and candy, the bedrooms were filled with all the games I wanted to play but never could before, and the living room was filled with all of the greatest movies ever made. It made it easier to live there. Of course it was hard to get a good read of time. There was only one clock in the entire house and it was in the living room. It was digital with blue numbering. I hate to say it, but I was always obsessed with that clock. It had a certain hypnotic quality about it that seemed to only affect me. I could never stop looking at it.
We spent the first couple of days talking and getting to know each other. We learned about who we were when we were alive. Naturally, I left out certain aspects of my life for the children’s sake, but not with Erick. Days turned into weeks, which we filled with movies and games. Competitions and parties. Weeks turned into months. We began to grow on each other emotionally. I felt myself caring for these people more than I had ever cared for any individual before. The children laughed and smiled and I was happy. Months turned into years and it began to wear a bit on all of us. We never aged. We stayed the same as we were the day we died, but without the signs of death. But despite our health we did get in fights. Disagreements about how the world we use to know was run or opinions that didn’t really matter all considering. Honestly, I enjoyed it. It was like we were a real family. Years turned into Decades and it began waning onto our spirits. It hit Erick the hardest. He had been at the house much longer than the rest of us, and he began talking about how he was never going to be picked up. He became depressed and there was nothing that I could do to comfort him.
48 years passed since the day me and the kids were dropped off at the house when Erick brought us all into the living room. He never told us what he was planning or gave us any warning. He just did. I don’t know how the fire was started, only that Erick had started it. It traveled along the walls faster than I could outrun it. It crawled across the floor and found our feet and I could hear the screams before I could feel the heat.
I’m not sure why it never stopped. Maybe because we were already dead, but that didn’t make it any easier. Eventually it stopped burning for me and the heat was replaced by paralyzing cold. You’d think I was lucky, but you didn’t have to hear the others scream. That was the worst. I don’t know how long we were there before I noticed the clock. How could I have missed it? With it’s bright blue letters against the red of the fires, it stood out like a spotlight. I could only look at it. Look and count the minutes of time spent listening to my family burn.
Minutes became hours. Hours turned into days. Days turned into Weeks. Weeks into Months. Months turned into years. I stopped counting after 60. I’m not sure when I went insane. When I started apologizing for what I couldn’t do. I can tell you that it never got easier.
I’m told that I woke up in a hospital screaming. That the staff had to sedate me and put me into a comatose state for a few hours and slowly wake me up. I’m told that I’m lucky because the neighbors called the police when they heard screaming in the apartment next door. I’m told that if the ambulance didn’t get there in time I wouldn’t have been able to come back. I’m told that I was dead for 6 minutes. I’m telling you that 6 minutes is an eternity in hell.